The Bear Quartet

Moby Dick

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Although Moby Dick is the Bear Quartet's seventh album in five years, it has the freshness of a band making their debut. It marks a subtle but important shift away from their earlier records, in that the songs are a bit meatier and slightly more aggressive than before, with rocking guitars taking precedence. There's also a new sense of exploded song structure, with four of the 11 tracks stretching between five and nine minutes, adding lengthy solos and extended instrumental sections without sounding padded or jammy, or recycling the old guitar hero moves the way Oasis (this Swedish group's most obvious point of comparison) do. Yet there's still a delicacy to songs like "Where Do You Put Your Hate," with its pealing guitars, churchy organ and Byrdsy harmonies. The band's usual strings-and-horns accompaniment is deployed more sparingly than usual -- and therefore more effectively, as in the simple muted trumpet lines gracing the mopey "If You Have a Heart" -- and an unexpected country rock influence creeps in on "Earthly Pastime." Released at the height of the Swedish pop boom, Moby Dick proves that there's more to Scandinavian pop than the Cardigans' retro kitsch.

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